Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Get involved to keep villages vibrant warns rural land use expert

Rural land and business owners should prepare to get more involved in the running of their communities.

The seemingly ideal situation of people taking charge of their own affairs through the government’s Localism Bill could backfire and lead to the stagnation of whole communities, warns rural land use expert Chris D’Olley, Hampshire based partner.

One of the benefits of localism, says the government, could be communities taking charge of such things as the planning process, deciding what they want to allow and setting aside areas where there should be no development.

“A genuine danger is the return of Nimbyism,” says Mr. D’Olley. “Rural land and business owners need to be aware of the effect it could have.”

As agriculture has changed, what were workers’ cottages have tended to become the homes of new comers, which has helped village communities survive in many cases.

But Mr. D’Olley warns that this could have a stagnating effect.

“People move into villages and see it as a snapshot of how it should be forever when they arrive,” he explains. “This can lead to a desire to preserve the village – to take the Damien Hirst approach of dissecting it, seeing what is liked, and setting it in formaldehyde forever more.

“But villages are living, changing entities and they will die if they are not allowed to develop in new ways.

“I have seen farm and business owners happily let the new blood take over village affairs and assume control of parish councils. Traditional village folk have sometimes welcomed this and sat back to let people get on with it.

“But localism envisages vital issues such as planning being settled within a community and this could restrict what happens in the future.

“Farmers and others need to re-engage with influencing the future of their communities and if there is an opportunity to stand for election to the parish council in May then this should be grasped.

“These elections work to a four year cycle, so waiting to see what happens with localism could be too late.

“With other cuts taking place and threats to such things as rural bus services, having healthy businesses and affordable housing in villages will become more important than ever.

“If communities are not allowed to grow as they have done over the centuries then villages set in aspic will become either dormitories for the better off or just wither and die. Neither is the scenario that will ensure a vibrant, healthy rural community for the centuries to come so the time to take action is now.”

Christopher D'OlleyMRICS


Christopher D'Olley is a Rural Partner in the Winchester office. He is a Chartered Surveyor and Fellow of the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, with over 30 years experience. Work undertake...

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